The Singapore Honeymoon Is Over
Op-Ed in Foreign Policy
The following is an excerpt from an op-ed that was originally published in Foreign Policy.
It was never going to be easy for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to turn President Donald Trump’s sweeping declaration of progress with North Korea into reality. Even with the aid of Ambassador Sung Kim, an outstanding U.S. diplomat with immense North Korea experience, Pompeo arrived in Pyongyang with several huge handicaps.
Some of his problems are of the administration’s own making. The deliberately unhelpful deadline for quick denuclearization put forth by Trump’s famously hawkish national security advisor, John Bolton, combined with a leaked U.S. intelligence report outlining North Korea’s accelerated concealment program, put Pompeo in an impossible position, ending in a public rebuke from Pyongyang.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is betting that he can get what he wants directly from Trump himself, cutting out the middleman. He can hardly be blamed for thinking that Trump is a soft touch after his boastful post-summit press conference revealing his plan to cancel the “expensive” and “provocative” war games and eventually bring U.S. forces back from South Korea. Kim, who has shown himself a remarkably savvy player, has no cause to make costly concessions to Pompeo given Trump’s pattern of undercutting his top aides, many of whom are now out of the White House entirely.
Remember Rex “Wasting His Time” Tillerson? Remember H.R. “Bloody Nose” McMaster? Remember Defense Secretary James Mattis’s repeated insistence that U.S. troops and defense exercises with South Korea were essential? Kim does. And he remembers that although U.S. negotiators in the days before the summit pushed for tough written commitments on denuclearization and ballistic missiles, the statement Trump happily signed in Singapore did not include any such commitments. Nor did it mention proliferation, cybersecurity, chemical weapons, or human rights.
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